Saturday, 31 March 2012

Books in my Month...






Time again to put all my monthly reads in one place 

....here they are.....





The Help The Help by Kathryn Stockett


A Greyhound of a Girl (Hardcover) A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle


The God Box The God Box by Mary Lou Quinlan



Mutiny On The Bounty Mutiny on The Bounty by John Boyne



The Go Between (Penguin Modern Classics) The Go-Between by L P Hartley



A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar: A Novel A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar by Suzanne Joinson




Trapeze Trapeze by Simon Mawer




Putting Alice Back Together Putting Alice back together by Carol Marinelli




The Apothecary's Daughter The Apothecary's Daughter by Charlotte Betts





The Crown The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau




I've had some really good books this month, with some fine writing from authors who are new to me...

  • Carol Marinelli
  • Kathryn Stockett
  • Simon Mawer
  • Mary Lou Quinlan


I especially like to read books by debut authors, these are three talented debut writers who I expect will have interesting writing careers ahead of them...


  • Charlotte Betts
  • Suzanne Joinson
  • Nancy Bilyeau


For good storytelling I rely on favourite authors, who can always be guaranteed to write a good tale...

  • John Boyne
  • Roddy Doyle

And as a treat to myself I read a wonderful modern classic - The Go Between 

  • L P Hartley


And Finally my Book Group read of the Month 




Alice Bliss Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington.




Thanks for looking 

and

Happy Reading






Friday, 30 March 2012

Friday Recommends..


Friday again, and it's time for my choice of book for Friday recommends...













This is an exciting book blog hop that book bloggers can take part in once a week to share with their followers, the books that they most recommend reading!


The rules for Friday Recommends are:


Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.
Pick a book that you've read, and have enjoyed enough to recommend to other readers. It can be a book you've read recently, or a book you read years ago - it's up to you - but make sure you tell us why you love the book (like a mini review). You make the post as long or as short as you like.
Visit the other blogs and enjoy!









I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to review this book for NetGalley on behalf of  Other Press

My Friday Recommended read this week is 

Trapeze 

by

Simon Mawer

Trapeze


Other Press

Pub Date: May 01, 2012

ISBN: 9781590515273




My review

Marion Sutro, is a young woman on a dangerous mission. She is recruited, in London, by the special operations executive, and after extensive training, is chosen to take part in an operation, which involves being parachuted into occupied France, during WW2. Marian’s natural aptitude with the French language, and her ability to convince the authorities that she is a French citizen, makes her the perfect candidate for espionage. Entrusted with assignments that will place her in extreme danger, Marian assumes different identities, but is always aware that should she make a mistake, she runs the risk of being captured and interrogated by the Germans. Marian is a very competent young woman, but she is also extremely flawed, and it is this very vulnerability, which makes her character all the more fascinating.
Marian’s story, based on the factual exploits of a group of brave women who actually worked as undercover officers in France, never falters, or fails to deliver a perfect narrative. War torn France with all its mistrust and treachery, is so cleverly described, I felt as if I was hiding in the shadows watching the story unfold. Not only is the book a clever adventure story, but it also has romance, and deception, which helps to add an extra element of excitement, and further compliments Marian’s complex character.


This book gripped me from its opening page, and I am delighted to recommend it to other readers who enjoy high calibre writing. The author’s natural storytelling ability shines through the story from beginning to end, and the reader’s own emotional involvement with the characters, make this a book to remember.

If you enjoyed Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks you will enjoy this one.





Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Wishlist Wednesday


I am delighted to be part of wishlist Wednesday which is hosted by Dani at pen to paper

 





The idea is to post about one book each week that has been on your wishlist for some time, or maybe just added.

So what do you need to do to join in?

Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.

Pick a book from your wishlist that you are dying to get to put on your shelves.

Do a post telling your readers about the book and why it's on your wishlist.

Add your blog to the linky at the bottom of her post.

Put a link back to pen to paper (http://vogue-pentopaper.blogspot.com) somewhere in your post.



My Wishlist Wednesday Book 
is 
The Queen's Secret 
by 
Victoria lamb

The Queen's Secret
Bantam Press (16 Feb 2012)





Synopsis from Goodreads


Elizabeth I, Queen of England, arrives at Kenilworth Castle amid pomp, fanfare and a wealth of lavish festivities laid on by the Earl of Leicester. The hopeful Earl knows this is his very last chance to persuade the Queen to marry him.
Yet despite his attachment to the Queen and his driving ambition to be her King, Leicester is unable to resist the seductive wiles of Lettice, wife of the Earl of Essex. And soon whispers of their relationship start spreading through the court.
Enraged by the adulterous lovers' growing intimacy, Elizabeth employs Lucy Morgan, a young black singer and court entertainer, to spy on the couple. But Lucy, who was raised by a spy in London, uncovers far more than she bargains for.
For someone at Kenilworth that summer is plotting to kill the queen. No longer able to tell friend from foe, it is soon not only the queen who is in mortal danger - but Lucy herself.


I've long been enamoured of the "did they, or didn't they" aspect to the passionate love story between Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley.

Were they were lovers...?

I have my doubts but their relationship really catches my imagination and I enjoy well written novels about the time they spent together.

I am sure that  I will get a copy of this before too long !!



Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Review ~The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau

Another book with an intriguing cover has taken my eye - this time it is The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau


This fascinating historical novel is set in 1537, during the turbulent middle years of the reign of Henry VIII, when enemies lingered on street corners, and to profess your Catholic faith usually ended with a trip to the infamous tower of London.


cover
Published by Orion Books
February 2nd 2012



This story is rather different as it combines straightforward historical fiction, with a thrilling quest to find the missing Athelstan crown, which was worn by the Saxon King, Athelstan in 937, at the battle of Brunanburh, and is believed to have mystical properties.

From words whispered on the deathbed of the dying Queen, Katherine of Aragon, to the sanctified deity of a Dominican nunnery, this story abounds with treachery, suspicion and intrigue. Joanna Stafford, a novice nun, becomes entangled in political intrigue. She  is charged with the quest of finding the missing crown, or her father, already imprisoned in the tower of London, will meet his fate at the hands of sadistic, and ruthless killers.

I was drawn into this story from the very beginning, the writing is so thoughtfully composed, and with such fine attention to detail that the reader is immediately transported back through time, when Tudor England is exposed with all its faults and failings.

What I liked best was the way in which the author cleverly weaves together all the story strands until they resemble one of the fine tapestries that hang above the castle halls...and as you creep along the rat infested corridors, you can sense the lingering scent of candle wax in the air.... and the flutter of fear never really goes away.

This author undoubtedly makes history come alive, and has written a stunning debut novel which captures  the Tudor period to perfection.

I loved it !!

5 *****



Saturday, 24 March 2012

Jaffa at play...

Jaffa enjoying some play time in the garden with his friend , Timmy....



Friday, 23 March 2012

Friday recommends #10


Friday again, and it's time for my choice of book for Friday recommends...







This is an exciting book blog hop that book bloggers can take part in once a week to share with their followers, the books that they most recommend reading!

The rules for Friday Recommends are:

Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.
Pick a book that you've read, and have enjoyed enough to recommend to other readers. It can be a book you've read recently, or a book you read years ago - it's up to you - but make sure you tell us why you love the book (like a mini review). You make the post as long or as short as you like.
Visit the other blogs and enjoy!





My  Recommended Read


is

The Apothecary's Daughter

by 

Charlotte Betts



Hardcover, 400 pages
Published 2011 by Piatkus Books
Paperback
Published February 2012

Set against the back drop of Restoration England , this book brings to life the sights and smells of a teeming city. It describes beautifully the way of life in London in 1665, when the plague was rife and red crosses appeared on doorways with alarming regularity. The descriptions are so evocative you can almost hear the dead carts rumbling through the cobbled streets, and watch with horror as bodies are tumbled into lime filled pits.

Susannah Leyton is the apothecary's daughter who has helped to run her father's apothecary shop since she was a young girl. When her place in her father's affection is taken by a new and avaricious step mother, Susannah must learn to make her own way. A disastrous marriage follows which engulfs Susannah in a whole new range of problems but brings to life a cast of unforgettable characters.

I know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover but this one is glorious - you really feel like you have your nose pressed to the window, and are peering at the array of lotions and potions on offer inside. This rich tapestry is so wonderfully evocative of plague ridden London, you feel as if you walk the same streets and smell the same malodorous smells. I stayed up long and late to finish as I simply couldn't put it down.

I look forward reading more historical novels from this talented story teller.



I give this book a wonderful 5***** review.

About the Author.

Charlotte Betts began her working life as a fashion designer in London, followed by a career in interior design. The Apothecary's daughter is her debut novel, which won the RNA New Writers award 2011 and the YouWriteOnBook of the Year 2010.


Charlotte's next book The Painter's Apprentice is due out in August 2012 - I can't wait !!!

I've found another favourite author, and one of my reads of 2012.




Thursday, 22 March 2012

Review ~ Putting Alice back together by Carol Marinelli

I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to read and review this novel for NetGalley on behalf of Harlequin UK, (Mira) who kindly provided a pre publication galley.




Putting Alice Back Together


Paperback, 397 pages

Published March 2nd 2012 by Mira UK

Putting Alice Back Together by Carol Marinelli
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I expected putting Alice back together to be light hearted chick lit, but instead found a book packed with emotional turmoil, and a life so upset by a past event that it threatens to ruin all future happiness.

Told in alternate chapters we are quickly drawn into the life of present day Alice, who at 27, with all her faults and failings is undeniably challenging. Her life is in constant melt down, and she relies heavily on drink and prescription drugs to help her make it through the day. Interspersed with adult Alice is the story of young Alice, growing up with her mum and her sisters, and who uses her talent for music as her escape from the world around her.

This is a well written and lively story, Alice is an unusual heroine, who isn’t always likeable, and yet the supporting cast of her friends and family combine to make this an intriguing page turner. When I got to the end of the novel I really cared about Alice and hoped that she would be able to move on with her life.

For me, the sign of a good story is when the characters are still in your head several days after finishing the book. Putting Alice back together is one such novel, and I look forward to reading more of this author’s work.








Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Wishlist Wednesday #10...


I am delighted to be part of wishlist Wednesday which is hosted by Dani at pen to paper

 





The idea is to post about one book each week that has been on your wishlist for some time, or maybe just added.

So what do you need to do to join in?

Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.

Pick a book from your wishlist that you are dying to get to put on your shelves.

Do a post telling your readers about the book and why it's on your wishlist.

Add your blog to the linky at the bottom of her post.

Put a link back to pen to paper (http://vogue-pentopaper.blogspot.com) somewhere in your post.

Visit the other blogs and enjoy!



My Wishlist Wednesday book
is
The Girl on the Cliff
by
Lucinda Riley

The Girl On The Cliff 

Synopsis from Goodreads

A tiny figure stands at the cliff edge - hair flying in the breeze. Grania Ryan is hypnotised by the enchanting vision, unaware this young girl, Aurora Lisle, will change her life in countless ways. For Grania is suffering and has returned to Ireland and the arms of her loving family, in the hope her wounds might heal.

As their paths begin to entwine, Grania's mother becomes deeply troubled … because almost a century of entanglement has brought nothing but terrible tragedy to their two families.

The past is set to repeat its sorrows. A suitcase hidden in the attic of a magnificent house in London during the First World War is where it all began, but could it now hold the key to ending the heartbreak that has beset the Lisles and the Ryans for so long?


Lucinda Riley is the best selling author of Hothouse Flower which was published in November 2010. The US edition The Orchid House is out in paperback now.

The Girl on the Cliff  has been on my book radar since I saw first the jacket cover which really appealed to me - it reminded me of cliff paths, and the freedom to chase the wind and feel yourself flying high.


Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Monday, 19 March 2012

Books in my week....

I'm in the enviable position of having several books on the go - these are some of the books I hope to read this week..

Putting Alice Back Together  by Carol Marinelli

Putting Alice Back Together
From Goodreads

There's only so much sex, valium and red wine you can take to paper over the cracks...
Alice Lydia Jameson is the friend you wish you had. The girl who makes a party more fun, pulls a funny face to make you feel better, drinks wine out of a mug and makes you laugh while you're crying over an ex. Alice is totally happy, everything is amazing, and there is nothing at all to worry about... except, well: Her job was really great 10 years ago; The sexiest guy alive doesn't want her...because he's gay; Her credit card bills are mounting up... But maybe the biggest problem for Alice is that she has a secret. A secret so big she can't tell anyone...but how do you keep a secret like that when everything is starting to fall apart? And once it's out there, how do you ever begin to put yourself back together again?


The Good Father by Noah Hawley

The Good Father: A Novel
From Goodreads

An intense, psychological novel about one doctor's suspense-filled quest to unlock the mind of a suspected political assassin: his twenty-year old son.
Told alternately from the point of view of the guilt-ridden, determined father and his meandering, ruminative son, The Good Father is a powerfully emotional page-turner that keeps one guessing until the very end. This is an absorbing and honest novel about the responsibilities—and limitations—of being a parent and our capacity to provide our children with unconditional love in the face of an unthinkable situation.

The Last Summer by Judith Kinghorn

The Last Summer
From Goodreads

Clarissa is almost seventeen when the spell of her childhood is broken. It is 1914, the beginning of a blissful, golden summer - and the end of an era. Deyning Park is in its heyday, the large country house filled with the laughter and excitement of privileged youth preparing for a weekend party. When Clarissa meets Tom Cuthbert, home from university and staying with his mother, the housekeeper, she is dazzled. Tom is handsome and enigmatic; he is also an outsider. Ambitious, clever, his sights set on a career in law, Tom is an acute observer, and a man who knows what he wants. For now, that is Clarissa.

As Tom and Clarissa's friendship deepens, the wider landscape of political life around them is changing, and another story unfolds: they are not the only people in love. Soon the world - and all that they know - is rocked by a war that changes their lives for ever.


The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan (Kindle)

The Lifeboat

From Goodreads

Grace Winter, 22, is both a newlywed and a widow. She is also on trial for her life.

In the summer of 1914, the elegant ocean liner carrying her and her husband Henry across the Atlantic suffers a mysterious explosion. Setting aside his own safety, Henry secures Grace a place in a lifeboat, which the survivors quickly realize is over capacity. For any to live, some must die.

As the castaways battle the elements, and each other, Grace recollects the unorthodox way she and Henry met, and the new life of privilege she thought she'd found. Will she pay any price to keep it?

The Lifeboat is a page-turning novel of hard choices and survival, narrated by a woman as unforgettable and complex as the events she describes.






I'll be back with my reviews when the books are finished......

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Happy Mother's Day...

Happy Mother's Day to mum's everywhere...




....and remembering those who are no longer with us......


Saturday, 17 March 2012

Friday, 16 March 2012

Friday Recommends #9


Friday again, and it's time for my choice of book for Friday recommends...







This is an exciting book blog hop that book bloggers can take part in once a week to share with their followers, the books that they most recommend reading!

The rules for Friday Recommends are:

Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.
Pick a book that you've read, and have enjoyed enough to recommend to other readers. It can be a book you've read recently, or a book you read years ago - it's up to you - but make sure you tell us why you love the book (like a mini review). You make the post as long or as short as you like.
Visit the other blogs and enjoy!




My Friday Recommended read #9

 is 


A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar: A Novel
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (22 May 2012) 
A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar: A Novel by Suzanne Joinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
jaffa's rating 4 paws








I was delighted to receive this book from Netgalley and my thanks to the publishers, Bloomsbury for allowing access to a pre-publication galley edition.


The story opens in Kashgar 1923, as Evangeline English, a keen lady cyclist, and her sister, Lizzie set off on China’s Silk Route into Kashgar, to help set up a Christian mission. They are travelling with Millicent, a stubborn and assertive missionary leader, who against the odds, gets drawn into a local tragedy, which subsequently forces a violent reaction from the local Muslim population. This trio of unconventional women are keen to experience adventure, but their naivety, threatens their very safety.

In present day London, Frieda finds a young man sleeping rough outside her flat, she gives him a blanket and pillow, but in the morning he is gone, leaving behind a beautiful picture of a bird together with an Arab inscription drawn onto the wall behind where he slept. An unlikely friendship develops between Frieda and this young man, and together they embark upon a journey of discovery, as Frieda seeks out more information about a mysterious inheritance.

What then follows is a cleverly constructed dual time narrative with colourful descriptions of life in Kashgar, balanced against vivid images of present day adventures. The author has managed to weave the two stories quite well, and although at times the narrative seems a little clumsy, overall, I thought that this was an enjoyable read, and a good example of what happens when the present involves itself in the past.





Thursday, 15 March 2012

Book of the Film ~ The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1) 



Until September 2011, I had never heard of The Hunger Games Trilogy, but when on the recommendation of a friend, and it must be said a vastly reduced kindle price, I decided to give it a go...

I wasn't surprised to find that it was a fast paced and gutsy novel, my friend told me it was one to watch out for, but what did astonish me was the ease of writing, and how the dystopian world of Panem, was brought to life in such a vivid, and truly terrifying way.

At the time of reading the novel,  I was caught up in the annual UK excitement of watching auditions for the X-factor, and what really struck a chord, was the similarities between The Hunger Games, and this talent competition.. Alright, I know Simon Cowell wouldn't make his contestants fight to the death on live TV, but the destructive tactics of the television talent show, emphasised the pressure put upon these young people to "perform", and the voyeuristic element of The Hunger Games is encapsulated when watching an X factor live show.

The Hunger Games, the movie had it's European Premier at the O2 in London yesterday, and is set to break all box office records. Initially, categorised in the same group of young adult movies, as Twilight and Harry Potter, this story is about as different from those two books, as chalk is to cheese.

If you haven't read the book - give yourself a treat - and then go see the movie - it's on general release from 23 March 2012.

Catching Fire and Mockingjay complete the trilogy of books.




This is my initial review of  The Hunger Games from 29 September 2011.

 The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
jaffa's rating 5paws

Set sometime in the future, in the dystopian society of Panem, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her sister's place when she is selected to represent her district in the annual Hunger Games. Katniss is pitted against other youngsters who must use their wit and cunning in order to survive.

The premise of the book should be off putting - young people selected to fight to the death on live television isn't something I would normally choose to read, however, this book captures your imagination from the opening page and carries you along in a tidal stream of events.

Whilst reading the book I was reminded forcibly of Reality TV shows like X-factor and American Idol, and whilst we don't encourage young people to fight to the death on live television, we do as a society  "enjoy" and actively encourage the cut-throat world of competitive combat live on our TV screens.

Maybe this book should act as a salutary warning.


If you enjoyed The Hunger Games and you like reading books about dystopian societies , I also highly  recommend:


Never Let me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro


Never Let Me Go 






Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Wishlist Wednesday # 10...

I am delighted to be part of wishlist Wednesday which is hosted by Dani at pen to paper

 





The idea is to post about one book each week that has been on your wishlist for some time, or maybe just added.

So what do you need to do to join in?

Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.

Pick a book from your wishlist that you are dying to get to put on your shelves.

Do a post telling your readers about the book and why it's on your wishlist.

Add your blog to the linky at the bottom of her post.

Put a link back to pen to paper (http://vogue-pentopaper.blogspot.com) somewhere in your post.

Visit the other blogs and enjoy!



My # 10 Wishlist Wednesday Book


is


The Midwife of Venice


by


Roberta Rich




The Midwife of Venice 




Synopsis from Goodreads

A rollicking, fast-paced historical novel set against the richness and squalor of sixteenth-century Venice and Malta.

Hannah ha-Levi, a midwife in the Jewish ghetto, is known throughout Venice for her skill in midwifery. When a Christian count appears at Hannah's door imploring her to attend his labouring wife who is near death, Hannah's compassion is tested. Not only is it illegal for Jews to render medical treatment to Christians, it's also punishable by torture ... and death. But Hannah cannot turn down the money. With such a handsome sum, she can save her own husband, Isaac, who was captured at sea and taken to Malta as a slave of the Knights of St. John. Aided by her "birthing spoons" — rudimentary forceps she invented to help with difficult births — will Hannah be able to save mother and child? And if she can, will she also be able to save herself? 

Woven through Hannah's travails is the story of Isaac's life as a captive slave in Malta. Fearing that his wife has perished in the plague, he pins his hopes of returning home to Hannah on his talent for writing love letters that melt even the hardest of hearts.

----------------------

I've seen some mixed reviews of this book, and yet something about the story really appeals to my love of history. I've enjoyed other stories set in Venice, this one brings to mind the books of Marina Fiorato and Sarah Dunant, both of these authors manage to capture the very essence of Renaissance Italy.

I try not to judge  a book by its cover, but something about the dark and moody blue of this one appeals to my sense of mystery.


**If you have read this - do leave a comment - I'd love to know what you think of my Wishlist Books...**



Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Review - The God Box by Mary Lou Quinlan

I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to review this book for NetGalley on behalf of Greenleaf Book Group Press.


The God Box : Sharing my mother's gift of faith, love and letting go 
by 
Mary Lou Quinlan


The God Box 



My Review



When Mary Finlayson dies, her legacy is discovered in mismatched boxes which, when opened reveal dozens of tiny messages, all hand written pleas to God. On handy scraps of paper, more often on the backs of other more mundane letters, Mary wrote down her wishes and worries. Never doubting that God would hear her petitions, Mary continued her correspondence with God, not just for herself, but more often for her family and friends who, when facing uncertainties in their lives would be conscious that Mary was interceding with God on their behalf. When her daughter, Mary Lou Quinlan discovers the contents of the God Boxes, she is sure that her mother’s greatest asset is quite simply- love.

I thought that this book was enchanting, not just in the simplicity of its style, but, for me, what shone through the narrative was the love that this mother and daughter had for each other. Whilst Mary was the glue that held them together, her lasting legacy to Mary Lou, reinforced the belief that the bond between mother and daughter is unshakeable, and everlasting.

The God Box is well worth reading, and would make a perfect gift for mother’s everywhere.

4****

Monday, 12 March 2012

Review - Mutiny on the Bounty by John Boyne

This is my March Just for Fun Reading challenge.

My copy of Mutiny on the Bounty has sat on my book shelf since July 2009, so it was time I dusted off the cobwebs. And I'm so glad I did, as I have been engrossed in this adventure story since I started reading it. I finished the story this afternoon, and was really sorry to say good bye to characters I had come to know, and love.

Mutiny on the Bounty 
by 
John Boyne

Mutiny On The Bounty



John Boyne is such a talented storyteller, that for me at last, the story of Captain Bligh, and the mutiny on the Bounty finally makes sense. Our narrator of the story is  fourteen year old John Jacob Turnstile, not so affectionately known on board ship, as "Turnip". Turnstile finds himself on the wrong side of the law, and when given the choice of serving a twelve month sentence in gaol, or spending time as a sea servant, he takes the latter option, with little thought of what may lie ahead for him. Disregarded by most of the crew, and seen as the lowest of the low, Turnstile strikes up an unlikely alliance with Captain Bligh, and whilst their relationship is still that of master and servant, a common respect grows between them.
The description of life on board ship is without ambiguity, the depredations and hardships are well explained  but for me the story starts to come alive once the Bounty reaches the island of Otaheite, and the sailors begin their interaction with the native islanders.When the mutiny takes place, and Captain Bligh and his valiant supporters are dispatched to sail into the Pacific Ocean with little more than a 25ft rowing boat at their disposal, the story becomes a more sinister and uncomfortable account of life at sea, and their fight for survival is as valiant , as it is, heart breaking.

This is a real boys own adventure - a cross between Treasure Island and Pirates of the Caribbean but well worth a read if you like historical adventure.

5*****

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Author Interview with Emylia Hall...







Jaffa and I are delighted to introduce you to Emylia Hall. 



Picture by kind permission of the author



Emylia is the author of the stunning debut book The Book of Summers. We are so pleased that she could take time out of  her busy schedule to answer a few of our questions.



The Book of Summers
Published 1 March 2012


Emylia - welcome to jaffareadstoo.



Where did you get the inspiration for your debut book, The Book of Summers?

My mother’s Hungarian, and when I was eleven we started going on holiday to Hungary. My dad was an art teacher so he had the luxury of long holidays too - we’d pack up the car and disappear for four or five weeks at a time, winding our way through France, Germany, Austria and on into Hungary. Those sun-kissed summers shaped my year, so to draw inspiration from them throughout the writing of my novel felt like a real treat; a kind of time travel. The drama, though, I’m thankful to report, is fiction. 


Where did your characters come from, and did they surprise you?

Marika and David are much exaggerated versions of my parents, I suppose. My mum’s a fiery Hungarian and my dad’s a mild-mannered Englishman, but there the similarities end. Zoltรกn grew very naturally out of the bohemian idyll that is Villa Serena, as did Tamรกs. It was important to me to let Erzsi mix with uncomplicated and easily lovable people like them – I felt she deserved that. And, yes, they continually surprised me! While I write quite freely, without too much advance plotting and planning, I do spend a lot of time getting to know my characters away from the page. This lovely quote from Katherine Anne Porter became my ambition: "Get so well acquainted with your characters that they live and grow in your imagination exactly as if you saw them in the flesh; and finally tell their story with all the truth and tenderness and severity you are capable of..."


Who is your favourite character in the book?

I have soft spots for them all but I’ve probably got the most affection for Erzsi. It breaks my heart to think of her rattling around in her cottage, not quite knowing how to navigate her father, living on the bottled scent of her summers with Marika… But one of the lovely things about hearing reader responses is that so far everyone seems to have different favourite characters. I didn’t foresee that and it’s really satisfying. Hopefully it means that they all feel real. 



The cover of The Book of Summers is stunning – how much influence did you have on the cover design?

I was shown the design when I first met my editor, Leah Woodburn, and I loved it straight away. If you’re any way creative it’s easy to let your mind run on and picture different covers, but I was very happy to trust Headline. It’s beautiful, and makes the book feel like a desirable object – especially important for a hardback, these days.  I equally love the paperback cover that’s planned for this summer…


You have used WB Yeats as your epigraph in The Book of Summers – are you inspired by poetry?

I love reading poetry in snatches, while I’m cooking, before bed, on the bus. I find inspiration in its brevity and intensity. I recently bought the Bloodaxe anthology Staying Alive and it’s a real treasure trove. And I’ve always loved ‘When You Are Old’  - it felt so right for The Book of Summers. It sets the mood perfectly. 


Your writing is very lyrical – which authors have inspired you?

I find myself drawn to authors with a vivid, lyrical style, as such I’m a great fan of Susan Fletcher’s books – Eve Green, Oystercatchers and Witch Light, and recently I read Love Child by Allegra Huston, which is bursting with imagery and poetry. I also really like Daphne du Maurier for similar reasons – Rebecca is an all-time favourite. But I enjoy spare prose too, particularly the staccato rhythms of Hemingway and Carver.

This is your debut novel – how did it feel when you were signed by your publisher?

It’s a story that sounds too good to be true. It was just after 5pm on a Friday, last July. I was down in Devon with my husband, on one of my favourite childhood beaches, when my agent Rowan called. As soon as she said the magic words ‘offer’ and ‘Headline’, we ran into the sea in our jeans, capering ecstatically. Later we drank champagne and ate fish and chips in an old pub down by the water. I didn’t tell anyone else my news that night – not family, not friends – I wanted it to be this glorious little secret all of our own and it was.

Do you write books for yourself, or other people?

Everyone writes with different motivations and ambitions, but for me it’s important to enjoy the process and to draw personal satisfaction from it. At that point I’m always writing for myself – if I didn’t like what I was doing then the whole act would feel very cynical and remote. That said, The Book of Summers is my first novel and I hope that I will only improve as a writer. Therefore I’m interested in what people think of the book and as I write my second novel I think I’ll probably be more aware of the audience ‘out there.’ I’ll make sure I turn that awareness into an inspiration rather than a strait-jacket.


What is your favourite classic novel?

I was introduced to Pride and Prejudice at A-Level and have loved it ever since. I like to think Elizabeth Bennet and I would get on like a house on fire – although I suppose everyone does and that’s the whole point.


Can you tell us about any future writing projects?

I’m writing my second novel at the moment. It’s set in Switzerland, on the shores of glamorous Lake Lรฉman, among a crowd of ex-pats and foreign students. It’s basically a love story, and ambitiously, I’m imagining it as something like a cross between The Secret History and Hotel du Lac… All I really know is that I’m enjoying having a secret sideways world, away from all the excitements and distractions surrounding the publication of The Book of Summers.  






Emylia, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer our questions,

and for sharing your experience of writing The Book of Summers 


Jaffa and I wish you great success with the US launch of The Book of Summers in June 2012

and continued success with your writing career.





Hardback out in UK 01/03/2012


Friday, 9 March 2012

Friday Recommends #8....


Friday again, and it's time for my choice of book for Friday recommends...







This is an exciting book blog hop that book bloggers can take part in once a week to share with their followers, the books that they most recommend reading!

The rules for Friday Recommends are:

Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.
Pick a book that you've read, and have enjoyed enough to recommend to other readers. It can be a book you've read recently, or a book you read years ago - it's up to you - but make sure you tell us why you love the book (like a mini review). You make the post as long or as short as you like.
Visit the other blogs and enjoy!




My Friday Recommended read #8

 is 


A Greyhound Of A Girl 


By 


Roddy Doyle



A Greyhound of a Girl



 I was delighted to receive this book from NetGalley


And my thanks to ABRAMS for allowing  access to a pre-publication galley edition
Publisher: Abrams
Imprint: Amulet Books
Publication Date: 1 May 2012
ISBN: 9781419701689





Four generations of women--"I'm a woman," Mary said to herself--heading off on a journey in a car. One of them dead, one of them dying, one of them driving, one of them just starting out.'


Aimed primarily at the young adult market, A Greyhound of a Girl is a little book with big values. With poignant simplicity Roddy Doyle covers the themes of love, loss and death in remarkable style, without ever giving way to maudlin sentimentality.

From the beginning of the story the characters take on a life of their own, as with uncanny perception, four generations of women from the same family explore the concept of death and dying. Twelve year old Mary, hovering on the threshold of adolescence, is aware that her beloved granny, Emer is failing. When she visits Emer in hospital, Mary’s perception of her own mother Scarlett’s sadness is tender and compassionate, with each of them finding comfort in small things. Yet, when a strange woman appears to Mary, and introduces herself as Tansey, Scarlett is able to deduce that this ghostly figure is Emer’s mother who died when Emer was a baby. Granting Emer a last poignant journey back to her childhood home, helps Mary, Scarlett, Emer and Tansey discover that long forgotten memories have the power to heal, and that by understanding, we give each other a gift of remembrance.

 As the trademark of this talented author is to cover difficult topics with verve and panache, it would be very easy for this book to be dismissed as a light-hearted dance with the angel of death, but with wit and wisdom, A Greyhound of a Girl manages to be both tender and sweet, and sharp and sassy all at the same time. I read the story quickly, it’s remarkably easy to read, and yet the overwhelming theme of familial love, once revealed, stays with you for a very long time.


Sometimes, when faced with the dying process we very often fail our children by trying to protect them from, what is, after all a very natural process. Roddy Doyle has presented a very readable, tender and compassionate look at what happens when the health of a beloved grandparent deteriorates, and whilst his narrative allows memories and stories to compliment, they never overtake the real message that love will survive. 


4****





















Thursday, 8 March 2012

International Women's Day - March 8 2012

International Women's Day


International Women's day has been around since the early 1900's


IWD is now an official holiday in Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia. The tradition sees men honouring their mothers, wives, girlfriends, colleagues, etc with flowers and small gifts. In some countries IWD has the equivalent status of Mother's Day where children give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers.


Let all women - be safe, be strong, be inspirational...










International Women's Day

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Wishlist Wednesday # 9...

I am delighted to be part of wishlist Wednesday which is hosted by Dani at pen to paper






The idea is to post about one book each week that has been on your wishlist for some time, or maybe just added.

So what do you need to do to join in?

Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.

Pick a book from your wishlist that you are dying to get to put on your shelves.

Do a post telling your readers about the book and why it's on your wishlist.

Add your blog to the linky at the bottom of her post.

Put a link back to pen to paper (http://vogue-pentopaper.blogspot.com) somewhere in your post.

Visit the other blogs and enjoy!



My #9 Wishlist Wednesday Book
 is 

My Policeman

by 

Bethan Roberts



Publisher: Chatto & Windus (2 Feb 2012) 



Synopsis from GoodReads

An exquisitely told, tragic tale of thwarted love.

From the moment Marion first lays eyes on Tom -- her best friend's big brother, broad, blond, blue-eyed -- she is smitten. And when he comes home from National Service to be a policeman, Marion, a newly qualified teacher, is determined to win him. Unable to acknowledge the signs that something is amiss, she plunges into marriage, sure that her love is enough for both of them.


I read and enjoyed Bethan Roberts' book The Pools last month. I enjoy her style of writing as she is not afraid to cover difficult issues. One of my book friends has given My Policeman a five star review on Amazon UK - and that recommendation is good enough for me !!

Happy Reading !